Growing up along the border I had the best of both of my worlds – Mexico and America. Being in Ecuador definitely reminded me of Mexico and my Mexican family. The interactions I’ve had with the community and individuals do not differ that much from those that I’ve experienced while in Mexico. There’s the same sense of community and extended family as well as pure kindness. I get this a lot from the doctors, nurses, and other staff at the clinic that I’ve been working at alongside Cemoplaf. They ask me the usual questions: Why am I there, what am I studying, What is it like being a a Mexican-American. I do not mind answering all their questions, but I do hesitate when being ask why I chose to come to Ecuador rather than stay in America to help. It seems as if they are very used to the fact that many students come and go for their own benefit in the short-term.
A major difference would be the catcalls or piropos that are directed at the foreigners who are simply walking down the street. I observe how these piropos are not directed at the locals, solely on the foreigners. An important advice engrained in our brains is to simply ignore the piropos and to not even smile while walking down the street, because it might give men or women the wrong impression.
One of my expectations from Ecuador, especially because machismo culture exists here, was that I would not be able to observe many feminists speaking or teaching – even though Cemoplaf seems to be all about gender equality. To my surprise, on my first day of clinic I was with a middle-aged pediatrician who – during one of the consults – explicitly told another woman to take control of her own health, life, and rights. She urged her to speak with her husband about sharing responsibilities and understanding the implications that certain events had on her health. As I heard her say all this stuff, I just couldn’t believe it. Once the patient left, she turned to me and said, “La mujer tambien tiene sus derechos.” In other words: the woman also has her rights. I think this moment will forever be engrained on my mind.
I have only discussed my home environment with my coworkers who are also from the States. It seems as if the locals have a set idea of what America is like, but I don’t think they have an idea of the huge inequality gap. When I did discuss my college environment, such as the cost, type of work, schedule, students, etc., many of the high school students looked stunned. They were even more surprised when I spoke about the federal aid that is available. I didn’t withhold any of those details, because they were aware of the different costs as compared to Ecuador. Besides that bit of conversation, young adults usually ask about the nightlife and the type of music Americans are into, or even the latest styles. Other than that, no one else has asked me about America. I feel like they don’t really care, which is fine, but I wish I could elaborate on how Ecuador and USA are very similar.